I’m Julia Rees and I’m the founder and owner of the Style and Travel blog ‘The Velvet Runway’
It’s almost Halloween, the spookiest night of the year : the night when the ghosts of the dead return to earth, and the line between this world and the next becomes blurred.
Halloween is an annual holiday celebrated each year on October 31, and Halloween 2019 occurs on Thursday, October 31. Despite popular belief that Halloween originated in the US, it actually began in Ireland and has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off wandering ghosts.
The Celts believed that on ‘All Hallows’ Eve’, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred, and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
If you are thinking about celebrating Halloween this year, why not use the opportunity to travel to Europe, visit some scary places, learn about other nations’ cultures and traditions and visit one of the spookiest Halloween destinations in Europe for a really unforgettable experience.
What makes Europe the top spot to take in the Celtic festival? If you’ve been to Europe, you’ll already know. If not, let me tell you!
At Halloween, the otherwise charming and romantic cities, such as Venice and Prague, are transformed into cities of horror, terror and fear. The ancient castles make for spooky natural backdrops, and the medieval histories of torture, ghosts and real-life accounts of paranormal activity will chill you to the bone.
If you’re brave enough, read on for the ……. Spookiest Halloween destinations, but beware : it may be your last European Adventure!
You may be wondering why I have chosen 7 destinations, and this is because of the symbolism associated with this number. (we come across it in our everyday lives (7 days of the week), in religious beliefs (7 days to create the world), in the 7 wonders of the world, but did you know it also represents the bridge between life and death, and so is particularly appropriate for this time of year?
As far back as Ancient Egypt, many – notably religious – edifices were built respecting the proportions linked to the following numbers:
- Number 3: symbol of equilibrium and trinity, which confers on it a spiritual meaning
- Number 4: symbol of the material and terrestrial world.
- Number 7: which is the result of the sum of the other two numbers, finds a place between the two worlds, the world of life and the world of death.
So here are my 7 spookiest Halloween destinations
No review of the spookiest Halloween destinations would be complete without a mention of the home of Dracula (or at least Vlad the Impaler, the bloodthirsty ruler the character was based upon).
As you might expect, Transylvania does not embark on Halloween festivities lightly, and has become famous for its Halloween parties.
You can visit Dracula’s castle in Bran, and be ‘treated’ to a midnight tour of Dracula’s lair. However, there’s no escaping once you’ve arrived, as the drive back into Bucharest will take roughly 3.5 hours!
This year, Bran Castle celebrates Halloween on Saturday November 2nd, starting at 19h00.
You can choose the ‘Night Tour’ ticket, where you can meet Count Dracula and ‘his friends’, or a ‘Combo’ ticket, which includes the Night Tour, followed by a Halloween Party (the combo ticket is for over 18s only).
You can also partake of a Halloween Gourmet Dinner, although I would beware of the other guests!
I have been told that entrance is free if you don’t have a reflection in the mirror, decompose in sunlight, are over 200 years old or you can fly (using your own bat wings) directly into the castle! Any takers???
And if this isn’t scary enough for you then you could spend the evening at the ‘Halloween Monster Party’, located in the middle of the woods, and surrounded by a collection of frozen-in-time villages, scary fortresses, and of course, whispering trees, and the strange supernatural beings! Do let me know if you make it back afterwards….
Derry, Northern Ireland
Derry (otherwise known by the locals as the ‘City of Bones’ is home to one of Europe’s biggest Halloween parades.
The celebrations – where the entire town of Derry is transformed into a Halloween-themed street carnival – are colourful, vibrant and intense.
All across the city, you can find many happenings such as Game of Thrones tours, the house of horrors, zombie nights, witchery workshops, dance parties and there’s even a ‘Monster Halloween Fun Fair’, with, of course, a scary ghost train!
There’s a spooky and spectacular animation trail around the city walls, parties and plenty of tricks and treats, and the Carnival Parade (which leaves from Queen’s Quay at 7.15pm on 31st October) is a huge ‘mustn’t miss’ event, suitable for all ages, involving music, dance, street performers and more.
The Fireworks finale takes place at the River Foyle at 8:15pm
London, The United Kingdom
Whilst London might not immediately leap to mind as a scary place to spend Halloween, I would ask you to consider if the name ‘Jack the Ripper’ means anything to you? Now imagine yourself, walking through the darkest and foggiest streets of East London and you might just think again!
London is a seriously scary place to be on Halloween, and this year the ghosts of some of the most famous serial killers are coming to greet you!
Halloween in London is full of ghostly attractions, haunted sites, parades, club events, spooky walking tours, ghost bus tours and underground dungeon explorations.
If you’re hoping for some supernatural activity, you may want to head to The Tower of London, where legend says that murdered spirits (such as the beheaded wife of King Henry V111, Ann Boleyn, continue to wander through the building.
Or you could opt for a ghost walking tour, which departs from one of London’s abandoned and haunted underground stations, and takes you on a spooky walk through the ancient and haunted ‘City of the Dead’, and you are guaranteed a night of chilling surprises.
If you don’t want to walk, then you can hop aboard a ghoulish bus for a Ghost Bus Tour through some of London’s most spooky and malevolent spots.
And then, if you feel the need for a drink, why not round the evening off at The Ten Bells Pub in Spitalfields, which was once called ‘the Jack the Ripper’. (I think you can see where this is headed…..).
It has been claimed that the pub is haunted by the ghost of Annie Chapman, murdered and mutilated by the Ripper in 1888. But, if that’s not spooky enough, then one of the pub’s Victorian landlords George Roberts, who was murdered with an axe, is also said to walk the pub’s upper floors.
With so many spooky sites to explore, Halloween is the perfect time to visit the city.
This usually beautiful and welcoming city turns into a big party place for zombies, monsters and evil old witches on All Hallows Eve, as Bratislava organizes many events including the Bloody Sexy Halloween Party .
Every year there is also a very popular party called “Halloween Rock Night”, which this year is at the Randal Club from 20h00.
And Bratislava also has its share of ghost stories. You will find St Michael’s Tower on most postcards and tourist itineraries of Bratislava, but if you happen to be in this area at night you might just spot the “Black Lady” who has been living in the tower for centuries.
The legend goes that Ursula and her friend Agata fell in love with the same man, but, unfortunately for Ursula, he chose Agata, and the jealous Ursula accused her friend of being a witch. Poor innocent Agata was burned at the stake, and Ursula was filled with remorse, and since then she has been appearing in the tower tortured by her guilt.
Prague, Czech Republic
The stunning gothic architecture of Prague, with its winding medieval lanes, narrow streets, medieval bridges and mysterious alleyways, ensure that the normally beautiful and romantic town of Prague takes a new identity when the scariest night of the year falls, and Prague is definitely one of the spookiest Halloween Destinations.
It’s easy to lose your way in the maze-like lanes or stumble across a hidden passageway and although stunningly beautiful, Prague has a dark past and has its share of terrifying legends.
When the night falls and there’s a chill in the air, you just can’t help looking back over your shoulder ….. but beware of what you might find!
Some of the spooky sites include the Old Jewish Cemetery above, the meandering Old Town and Charles Bridge.
There are several legends associated with Charles Bridge, including the fact that its rebuilding was made possible by a pact with the devil! After the death of St. John of Nepomuk some of the arches of the bridge collapsed many times and what was built during the day, fell during the night. Until an ambitious young architect made a pact with the devil. The devil would help him by fixing the bridge but in exchange he would take the soul of the first human being to cross the bridge. The architect tried to trick the devil by getting a rooster to cross the bridge, but the devil tricked the architect’s wife into making the fateful journey. The wife died soon after in childbirth, along with her child, who was unbaptized. For years, people crossing the bridge could hear a baby crying. One cold, wet day when the baby was crying, it also sneezed, and a passerby reflexively said, “God bless you.” . With that blessing, the baby was released from its torment and was never heard crying again. However, the devil kept the souls of the architect and his wife.
It is also rumoured that the statues of saints lining the bridge (which are only copies, the originals are kept in Lapidarium and Vysehrad), come alive at night and roam around the city in the cover of darkness.
If this doesn’t give you goosebumps, then try a visit to one of the sites of a spooky legend. Pass by the ‘Daliborka Tower’, named after one of the prisoners who was executed there. If you listen carefully, you may even hear his violin notes ringing throughout the building.
And for an unforgettable Halloween party, and the largest Halloween event in the Czech Republic and Central Europe with over 5,000 people attending each year, take a look at “Bloody Sexy Halloween” site.
Venice might be one of the most romantic destinations in Europe, but it’s also one of the most mysterious and eerie destinations. There’s a reason why ‘Don’t Look Now’ was filmed in Venice!
This stunningly beautiful city in northeastern Italy has a permanent eerie atmosphere, a disturbing past, lots of shadowy corners, and seriously terrifying legends about sea monsters.
For something a little creepy, you might want to consider the Doge’s Palace Secret Itineraries Tour, which takes you to parts of the palace that are off limits during the regular visit, including secret passageways, prisons, the torture chamber, an interrogation room, and the infamous Bridge of Sighs.
Another option is visiting San Michele Island, where Venice’s dead are buried. Bear in mind, that this is still a functioning graveyard and Venetians are constantly dropping by to pay their respects to their loved ones buried here; therefore photography and picnics are not permitted
Add to all this the city’s stunning architecture, the sensual Venetian masks, and the spectacular masquerade balls, and you’ll probably have the most sophisticated Halloween of your life.
Generally speaking I would urge you to visit Bruges (also know as the ‘Venice of the North’ and the lace capital of Europe, and one of the most romantic European destinations at any time of year.
However, be warned : The “little Venice of the North” is just as evil as romantic on Halloween, where you can experience the dark ages of medieval Bruges at night, with a city walk, where guides tell the legends, sagas and myths of the places where they would have happened … .
Also watch out for the water-ghost that haunts the Love Lake.
I hope you enjoyed this article about the spookiest Halloween destinations for 2019 and I can’t wait to share some more travel inspiration with you again soon! In the meantime, you can find inspiration on my blog and follow along on Instagram. Don’t forget to check out all the other fabulous posts by the other Editors and follow The Code of Style on Instagram.